Home Lab setup for Virtualization, Hyper-V, and MCSE

A video walkthrough, rack diagram, network diagram, and component list of my virtualization home lab

Virtualization Home Lab Guide

When it comes to home labs each of us is constrained by size, power, heat, noise, performance, and budget factors.  On top of that the IT field encompasses a host of various technologies and many of us are striving to master different concepts.  This makes labs varied and unique.  If you’ve spent time researching for your own lab you may have noticed there are a dizzying array of component choices and setup configurations.

I’ve spent a lot of time browsing the web and /r/homelab/ to create a lab that works for me.  Today my lab is primarily geared towards Microsoft technologies, specifically Hyper-V (+ VMM / Azure Pack) and Azure Stack.   While I focus on these technologies day-to-day this setup is capable of performing a wide variety of home lab functions.

I hope you are able to find a few ideas & inspirations for your own setup in the sections below:

  • Video walk-through
  • Rack diagram
  • Network diagram
  • Thoughts and Findings
  • Component list

Video Walk-Through

If you prefer video format over written documentation I provide a brief walk-through of the lab in the following Techthoughts video:

Home Lab Rack Diagram

Home Lab Rack Diagram - Front and Rear

Home Lab Networking Diagram

Home Lab Network Diagram

Thoughts & Findings

Over the course of my career I’ve found a home-lab to be invaluable.  It’s one thing to read about a technology concept and something else entirely to try and get it working, break it, get frustrated, and then finally make it work.  My home lab has done some great things for my career and will likely have a similar effect on yours.

Understand that home labs aren’t built overnight.  My lab has taken years to evolve to where it is today and will likely continue changing for the foreseeable future.

Have a plan.  I personally recommend books.  A bookshelf can be the most important component of your home-lab.  First, reading a book on a topic introduces you to the underlying theory of that technology.  You can get a sense if it is truly something you are interested in and willing to invest within your lab.  Certification books, even if you aren’t planning to pursue the certification often are structured in such a way where they have lab exercises.  These give you actual goals to accomplish within your own lab, and those goals can help shape purchase decisions.  It doesn’t have to be a literal book shelf.  It can be a kindle containing books on topics you want to master, or even a collection of web articles that you are interested in trying.

Buying used typically makes your budget go a lot farther.  You don’t need perfect gear for home-lab use.  Up-time and reliability are always important for production but a component failure or malfunctioning device in a home-lab setting can actually lead to quite a bit of learning.  Frustration, yes, but sometimes it takes something breaking before you can truly get a sense of it.  Building new is great if you are starting out and are exploring A+ or looking to get familiar with how to build a machine.  Often though that same amount of money on a new build nets you a lot more getting a used server off eBay.

Consider your environments power and cooling needs.  It’s easy to get wrapped up on budget for the gear.  That gear requires power though, and will generate a fair amount of heat.  Many homes typically have a shared 15A circuit for the plugs and a home-lab can quickly exceed that.  Budgeting for an electrician to add a dedicated 15A circuit/plug or even a 20A circuit/plug can be a worthwhile investment.  Cooling also has to be taken into account and there are a lot of ways to solve it.  In my own lab I went with a split-duct cooling unit.  You’ll need to give some thought into what works for your needs and budget.

Home Lab Components

 

For even more inspiration check out the HomeLab 2016 End of Year

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